Finnegans Wake a bestseller in China

NewImageFinnegans Wake, just published in a new Chinese translation, has become a sleeper hit in China. In just one month, it's sold 8,000 copies and hit number 2 on a Shanghai bestseller list. According to Fudan University professor Dai Congrong, who spent 8 years working on the book, the things lost in translation "are mostly the (long) sentences, because Joyce's sentences are so different from common sentences," says "My translation is more clear than the original book." Wish I owned the Chinese rights to Joseph Campbell's "A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake!"

"Undaunted Chinese lap up Finnegans Wake"


  1. 8,000 copies in a month is a #2 best seller?  That seems really low to me.   There is a badly written bondage fanfiction book that sold 65 million copies last year. 

  2. Finnegans Wake is just barely in English.  How the hell do you translate it into any other language, let alone Chinese?

    1. The clue is in the word barely. If it is not quite in English then it is in almost any other language as well.
      Reading Finnegans Wake gives the sense that words are not permanent and fixed, that they can dissolve in space and time and re-emerge elsewhere in any form.
      The disorientation felt is an essential part of the process in reading the text.

    2. For dems dat don’t fare well readin, the artist Stephen Crowe is illustrating the entirety of the Wake, with a gorgeous graphic for each page:

  3. Well, that explains why Finnegan’s Wake doesn’t make sense in English.

    Several years ago I read an article about a group of Joyce fans who’d never read Finnegan’s Wake and decided to tackle it together. The number of members rapidly declined. Only one reportedly made it to the end.

  4. The bottom half of the article is correct, but the top half is flawed.  There is no apostrophe in the title.  (And thus, the second word in the title is a verb rather than a noun.)

  5. The verb “to read” does not apply to FW.  

    FW demands some other verb — a verb that means:

    Looking-at-the-pages-of-Finnegans-Wake-now-thrubbada-dubbada-thunda-gunda-languarhumbanumba!  All night long, Baby!”  

    (Or words to that effect.)

    Every several years, I have another go.  Haven’t looked at all the pages yet.  I get about halfway.  Maybe I should skip every other page?

    PS update: Dubliners, very sweet, read Dubliners instead.

  6. “Pure chingchong idiotism with any way words all in one soluble. Gee each owe tea eye smells fish. That’s U” (p. 299).

  7. I heard that, due to its sudden popularity, Peter Jackson has acquired the rights and is actually going to turn it into a movie in 5 parts or chapters. Stay tuned!

    1. The over-long dinner scene will feature a raucous performance of The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly, The widow of Tim Finnegan will grow increasingly irate as the guests at the wake raid her pantry, but will be made content again when 1) they wash the dishes and 2) her husband leaps from his casket when someone splashes whisky on ‘im.

  8. Despite the reviews, Campbell’s key still has to be a useful guide to Joyce’s work. In 1983 I listened to Campbell speak non-stop  for 3 hours introducing, and expanding on the allegory and metaphors found in Finnegans Wake.

    So I understood then that FW wasn’t something I was going to get through in a weekend.

  9. I must be the only one here that thoroughly enjoyed it.  I laughed out loud in a few places.

    Makes sure you’re not reading the original version typeset by Parisian typesetters but rather the recently re-edited version.

    1. Indeed you are not alone! I go to a weekly Finnegans Wake reading club / drinking society. Irish pub, near to campus. Five years in, we’re just over 100 pages in. We do a lot of very careful drinking, er, thinking, over each page.

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